Mastering your Squat

Written by: Club Bunker



Time to read min

Mastering the squat is not only about gaining strength and muscle but also about promoting overall functional movement and preventing injuries. By focusing on these key components, you can ensure that your squats are effective, safe, and beneficial for your fitness journey.

Squatting Principles and Techniques

The squat is a fundamental exercise that has the power to strengthen various muscle groups, including the lower back, glutes, and quads. Whether you're engaging in high-intensity interval training or simply aiming for better functional movement, understanding the key components of a perfect squat is crucial for maximizing results and preventing injuries.

Hip Hinge

Initiate the squat by pushing your hips backward, mimicking the motion of sitting down on a low chair. By hinging your hips, you ensure that the pressure shifts to your heels, allowing for greater depth and minimizing strain on your knees.

Straight Head Position

Maintain a straight head position by focusing on a fixed spot at eye level throughout the movement. Do not look down during a squat. This alignment keeps your spine safe and prevents potential hazards, especially when handling heavier weights.

Chest Out Shoulders Back

Maintain proper spinal alignment by keeping your chest out and shoulders back. This posture helps maintain the natural curve of your lower back, promoting a strong and safe squat.

Neutral Lower Back

It is crucial to maintain a neutral lower back throughout the squat, particularly when adding weights. Avoid rounding your lower back as it can lead to excessive pressure on the intervertebral discs. If you feel your lower back slumping, return to the starting position and work on improving control and strength gradually.

Knees Over Ankles

Aim to keep your shins vertical and prevent your knees from crossing an imaginary line drawn vertically from your toes. Allowing your knees to cross this line increases the risk of injury and unnecessary stress on your joints. Focus on pushing your hips further back to achieve greater depth instead of compromising your knee alignment.

Breath Pattern

Pay attention to your breathing during squats. Inhale deeply as you lower yourself down and exhale forcefully as you push back up. Maintaining this breathing pattern throughout the exercise helps optimize performance.

Squat Depth

The depth of your squat depends on your hip flexibility. Aim for parallel squats, where your hamstrings are about parallel to the floor, engaging your thighs, hips, and glutes. Going deeper than parallel is acceptable if it feels comfortable and doesn't cause pain or discomfort in your knees or lower back.

Athletic Stance

As you lower into the squat position, ensure that your knees stay in line with your second and third toes. Avoid letting your knees roll inward, adopt an athletic stance for squats, where your knees are slightly bent, feet are firmly planted on the ground, and toes are pointed slightly outward. This positioning promotes stability and allows for effective engagement of different muscle groups, with a wider stance emphasizing the glutes and hamstrings and a closer stance targeting the quadriceps.

Strength and Conditioning class

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Collapsing Knees

Avoid allowing your knees to collapse inward while squatting. This inward knee movement can put excessive stress on your knees and potentially damage the ligaments. Always make sure to point your knees in the same direction as your toes.

Lack of Depth

When you squat above parallel, you limit your range of motion, leading to decreased gains in leg size and strength. Additionally, this improper form can put unnecessary strain on your knees since the force of the barbell doesn't shift onto your hips until you reach parallel. If you struggle with achieving the desired depth, work on improving your hip mobility.

Rounded Lower Back 

Maintaining a flat, neutral spine is crucial during squats to avoid placing dangerous stress on your lumbar spine. Rounding your lower back, often referred to as a "butt-wink," can occur as your butt tucks underneath and your lower back rounds when descending towards parallel. effectively engaging your entire core and alleviating pressure on your back.

Inactive Glutes

The glutes are the most powerful muscles in your lower body, and it is crucial to engage them effectively during squats. By consciously focusing on utilizing your glutes throughout the movement, you can maximize the benefits of squats and achieve optimal muscle activation.

Raising your Hips too Fast

When rising from the bottom position of a squat, it is common for individuals to lift their hips faster than their shoulders, resembling a "good morning" exercise. This can strain the lumbar spine as you rely on your lower back for extension. Focus on raising your hips and shoulders simultaneously.

Using the Smith Machine

The Smith Machine restricts your movement to a two-dimensional plane and promotes unnatural patterns of motion. Furthermore, it stabilizes the weight for you, depriving you of the full advantages that come with squatting. It's best to opt for free weights when squatting to maximize your gains and engage the muscles to their fullest potential.

Lifting Your Heels

Lifting your heels during the descent of a squat can lead to weight shifting forward, increased difficulty, and added stress on your knees. Instead, focus on driving through your heels when executing the movement.

Belt Squat

Benefits and Importance of Squatting

Squatting is a fundamental movement that offers numerous benefits and holds great importance because our bodies are designed for it. 

Squats are a compound exercise that effectively strengthens bones and muscles while simultaneously improving flexibility. By engaging in squats, we can enhance bone mineral density, making our bones and joints more resilient. This reduces the risk of injuries to our knees and ankles. 

Through the repetitive motion of squats, tendons, bones, and ligaments surrounding the leg muscles become stronger, alleviating some of the pressure on these vulnerable areas. Squats enhance bone mineral density in the spine thereby contributing to overall skeletal strength.

Another significant advantage of squats is their positive impact on flexibility. As we age, tendons, muscles, and ligaments tend to lose elasticity. Regularly performing squats can help counteract this natural process, promoting increased limberness and preventing stiffness. 

Additionally, squats play a crucial role in improving knee and hip stability, addressing imbalances and weaknesses that often lead to injuries. By incorporating squats into our fitness routine, we can assess any deficits in our lifting technique and identify areas that require attention or correction. Overall, squatting offers a comprehensive range of benefits, strengthening our bodies, improving flexibility, and minimizing the likelihood of imbalances and injuries.

Safety Bar Squat

If you're struggling to master the proper form and technique of squats, or if you want to take your squatting to the next level, it may be worth considering working with a personal trainer. A qualified PT can provide personalised guidance, help you address any weaknesses or imbalances, and ensure that you're performing squats correctly and safely. They can also tailor a workout plan specifically for your goals and needs, maximising the benefits you can derive from squatting. So, if you're looking to enhance your squatting abilities and optimise your fitness routine, don't hesitate to reach out to our professional trainers.